DOVER, Del.—The Delaware Supreme Court has upheld a ruling granting a California businessman ownership of an odd collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia, including a glass nasal douche reportedly used to irrigate the King's sinuses before he took the stage.
A Chancery Court judge entered a default judgment in July in favor of Richard Long after his erstwhile business partners, Robert Gallagher and Betty Franklin of Nevada, repeatedly failed to appear for court hearings and depositions and ignored court orders to allow the collection to be inspected for insurance purposes.
Gallagher, also known as Bobby Freeman, appealed to the state Supreme Court after vice-chancellor Leo Strine Jr. held him and Franklin in contempt and gave Long authority to dissolve the partnership and sell the collection.
The Supreme Court rejected arguments by Gallagher and Franklin that their behavior was excusable, and that Strine violated their due process rights in entering a default judgment for Long.
"To the contrary, the Court of Chancery demonstrated commendable patience and forbearance in its dealings with the Gallaghers," Justice Jack Jacobs wrote in a ruling handed down Tuesday. "Only when the Gallaghers had clearly demonstrated an extreme degree of willfulness and conscious disregard for the Court of Chancery's orders did the Court of Chancery impose its sanctions."
The collection, known as "Dr. Nick's Memories of Elvis," consists of items once owned by Dr. George Nichopolous, once a personal physician to the rock star who died of heart disease and prescription drug abuse in 1977 at his Memphis mansion. Among the items is a black doctor's bag used by Nichopolous and containing prescription bottles bearing Presley's name. The collection also includes jewelry, guns, and a laryngeal scope used to examine Presley's throat.
According to the lawsuit, Nichopolous, who has collaborated with Gallagher and Franklin in past exhibitions of the collection, agreed last year to sell it to them and Long for $1 million.
Long said he agreed to put up the $1 million, and that Gallagher and Franklin, who claimed to have a "half interest" in the collection, agreed to assign all their rights to a limited liability company he controlled. Long also allegedly agreed to lend the new company $1 million to cover expenses incurred by Gallagher and Franklin, and another $1 million for operating capital.
Long alleged in his lawsuit that Gallagher and Franklin refused to surrender access to the memorabilia and would not provide proof of their expenses and the paperwork needed to obtain insurance. He also claimed that within weeks of closing the deal, Gallagher said he was putting together a group to buy him out. The sale never developed and Franklin blamed Long for "tremendous losses" after plans to exhibit the collection at the Stardust casino in Las Vegas before it closed last year fell through.
At one point, the collection was being stored inside three tractor-trailers in Nevada airport hangars. David Finger, an attorney for Long, said Wednesday that his client doesn't know where the collection is now but is determined that Gallagher give it up.
"If he does not turn it over, we will seek to have him incarcerated," Finger said.
Michael Matuska, an attorney representing Gallagher and Franklin in a Nevada lawsuit against Long, did not immediately return a telephone message Wednesday.
2007/11/08 By Randall Chase - Associated Press / www.epgold.com